Frequently asked questions

In 2014, the Victorian Government committed to phasing out commercial netting in Port Phillip Bay as part of its Target One Million plan.

The phasing out of commercial netting is one of several commitments aimed at improving recreational fishing opportunities, and getting more Victorians out fishing more often.

Which fishing licences are affected by the phasing out of netting?

Commercial fishers holding a Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence or a Purse Seine (Port Phillip Bay) Fishery Access Licence were affected by this decision.

When will commercial netting stop in Port Phillip Bay?

Target One Million committed to phase out netting from Port Phillip Bay over an eight year period, beginning from the Government's election in late 2014. The Government, following a review of various options, amended the Fisheries Act 1995 to provide a clear scheme to phase out all commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay by 1 April 2022.

The legislation:

  • Specifies a process for the phasing out nets from Port Phillip Bay by 2022, including the closure of Corio Bay to netting by 2018;
  • Specifies the formula for determining compensation payments for the 42 Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence holders and the single Purse Seine (Port Phillip Bay) Fishery Access Licence holder who are affected by this decision; and
  • Provides for a limited (up to 8 licenses) non-net commercial fishery to operate in Port Phillip Bay from 1 April 2022.

The first round of compensation offers for fishers surrendering their licence and exiting the fishery commenced in early 2016, with the first payments made on 1 April 2016.

Who will receive compensation?

The amendments to the Fisheries Act 1995 specify two types of compensation packages to be provided to those whose fishery licences are surrendered or restricted by the scheme.

  • A surrender package for Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence holders and the Purse Seine (Port Phillip Bay) Fishery Access Licence holder exiting the fishery, payable in the year in which they elect to exit; and
  • An adjustment package for the 8 Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence holders eligible to remain in the non-net fishery after 1 April 2022, payable on 1 April 2022.

Under the scheme, all 42 Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence holders and the Purse Seine (Port Phillip Bay) Fishery Access Licence holder were eligible to elect to receive a surrender package and exit the fishery.

What is the level of compensation being paid to licence holders?

The Target One Million election commitment was to provide $20 million for the removal of netting from the Bay.

Based on consultation and review of the scheme, the scheme provided up to $27 million for compensation, depending on when licence holders exit the fishery. This compensation will provide a fairer and better recognition of individual investment and loss of income to licensees.

Two types of compensation packages were offered to affected licence holders; a surrender package for those exiting the fishery and an adjustment package for the 8 fishers eligible to remain in the non-net fishery after 1 April 2022

As at 1 April 2021, 34 of the 43 licences have been surrendered. As per the scheme, one of these licences will be cancelled on 1 April 2022, leaving 8 non-net fishers in the bay.

Surrender packages

For those licence holders who elected to exit the fishery in the first year of the scheme (April 2016), compensation consisted of:

  • the assessed market value of the licence, assessed by the Victorian Valuer General as $310,000;
  • an allowance of $75,000 for commercial fishing equipment such as vessels and nets to account for the reduced market value of such specialised gear given the prohibition on netting; and
  • an amount to provide compensation for loss of income based on 3 times the average annual catch value taken over the 5 fishing years from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014 under the licence.

The first of these packages was paid following cancellation of the licences on 1 April 2016.

The packages have been available in any subsequent year after 2016 use the same formula, but have been reduced in value by 10% per year over the 7 years of the scheme in recognition of the fact that fishers were able to continue to generate an income whilst they remained in the fishery.

Adjustment packages

For the 8 Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence holders remaining in the non-net fishery after 1 April 2022, an adjustment package will be paid on application and surrender of nets or 1 April 2022 – whichever is earlier. This package consists of:

  • 50% of the assessed market value of the licence, in recognition of the reduced utility and earning capacity of the licence without the authority to use nets; and
  • an allowance of $50,000 to account for the reduced market value of specialised gear given the prohibition on netting.

How will compensation be treated for taxation purposes?

Every person's individual financial circumstances will vary, and licence holders should seek independent advice.

However, the VFA applied for a taxation class ruling from the Australian Taxation Office on the scheme outlined in the Act. The Australian Taxation Office has issued a class ruling on the way that compensation payments to Port Phillip Bay commercial fishers will be treated for taxation purposes.

Incentivised payments – what are they and why are they needed?

The government is fully committed to deliver its election commitment. The commercial fishing industry strongly argued that the election commitment of $20 million was insufficient to deliver a fair compensation payout.

Government listened and the Act amendments provided for increased up-front funding to provide greater recognition and compensation to fishers, particularly if they exited early.

This provided an option for net fishers to take an early, more valuable package or stay in the fishery and continue to earn an income from their licence over the remaining seven years.

The incentives gave net fishers the choice, based on their individual personal and financial circumstances, as to when they left the fishery.

When will licence holders be compensated?

The surrender package for the remaining eligible fishers, will be paid following cancellation of their licence on 1 April 2022. The eight fishers who nominated to remain in the non-net fishery post 2022 will be eligible for their adjustment package on application and surrender of nets or 1 April 2022 – whichever is earlier.

All nets will be removed from Port Phillip Bay by 1 April 2022.

How is government managing fishing effort and behaviour while netting is being phased out?

In order to prevent an increase in fishing effort during the phasing-out of commercial netting in Port Phillip Bay, the Government committed to imposing a sliding cap on commercial catch.

Consistent with the Government's commitment to a sliding cap, individual catch limits came into force by regulation amendment on 1 April 2016 and will remain in place until 1 April 2022. The regulations have now been gazetted.

These regulations came into operation on 1 April 2016. Individual catch limits are based on either the average catch from the previous 3 or 5 years under the licence, whichever is the highest. Licence holders who were successful in their nomination to remain in the non-net fishery post 2022 will have their annual catch limits set at either the average annual catch over three or five years for their licence, or 11 tonnes, whichever is the highest.

In 2018, following an observed change in historic fishing practices, including an increase in the targeting of important recreational species, species catch limits, within the 11 tonnes, were introduced into the fishery.

As at 1 April 2022, those eight licences eligible to remain in the non-net fishery will have their annual total catch limit removed, and replaced with the equivalent of 11 tonnes of snapper quota.

What commercial fisheries will remain in the bay?

Between 1 April 2016 and 1 April 2022, all remaining fishers will be able to continue to fish using current methods (both net and non-net), with the exception being the prohibition of netting in Corio Bay in 2018.

On 1 April 2022 the fishery will transition to a non-net fishery. The 8 license holders remaining in the bay at that time will be restricted to using non-net gear types and methods. The fishery will be established as a quota-managed long-line snapper fishery, with each eligible fisher allocated quota units equal to 11 tonnes of snapper on 1 April 2022. Licence holders will be able to continue to fish with other non-net methods listed in the regulations.

In addition, dive fisheries, including the scallop, abalone and sea urchin fisheries, will continue to operate in Port Phillip Bay.

Where will consumers be able to buy their local seafood from?

The government acknowledges the contribution that the Port Phillip Bay fishery has, and will continue to make, to the supply of seafood consumed in Victoria. However, the Port Philip Bay only provides 1% of the seafood consumed in Victoria.

Melbourne's seafood comes from a variety of sources – from Victoria's own fisheries including other bays and inlets such as Corner Inlet and the Gippsland Lakes, and from Victorian ocean waters.

Additionally, long-line fishing for snapper and other non-net based methods will be allowed to continue in Western Port and Port Phillip Bay. Along with dive fisheries, including the scallop, abalone and sea urchin fisheries, these will continue to supply fresh local seafood directly into the Melbourne seafood market.

Seafood is also supplied from other state and Commonwealth waters and from imported product.

Where can licence holders and their families seek assistance?

The government recognises that this decision impacts on the livelihood of all net fishers in the bay and their families.

Government has committed to ensuring the removal of netting is done in a way that is respectful.

If you are a fishery licence holder affected by this decision, and you require specific financial or other support services, you may contact the Rural Financial Counselling Service on 1300 735 578 (Bellarine) or 1300 045 747 (Mornington Peninsula) This is a free, independent and confidential service.

We would encourage anyone who has concerns about someone in the industry to help the affected person make contact with a rural financial counsellor or doctor.

Who can I contact?

If you are a fishery licence holder affected by this decision, you will have been contacted directly to discuss your particular concerns. If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact Kylie Wohlt by email kylie.wohlt@vfa.vic.gov.au.